In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that partial-public employees could not be required to pay fair-share fees when the only reason the partial-public employees were deemed to be “public” employees was solely for union formation and collection of dues. The case arose out of Illinois, where lawmakers classified home health care workers, paid by federal Medicaid dollars, as State employees. The home health care workers were then required to pay dues/fair-share fees to the Service Employees International Union. SEIU was the exclusive union to bargain with Illinois over wages, hours, working conditions, and other terms and conditions of employment.
However, and key to the Court’s decision in this case, the home health care workers were controlled by the customers they served, not the State of Illinois. The job duties of the home health care workers were set by customers and the customers’ physicians. Customers have complete discretion in hiring any home health care worker meeting the State’s criteria and qualifications. Customers control all supervision and evaluation(s) of the home health care workers, and the State has no power to enter a customer’s home to evaluate job performance. The customer had the sole authority of discharge of the home health care workers; the State could not discharge a home health care worker from a customer’s home for substandard performance.
In relying on the terms of their employment, the Court found the home health care workers to be partial-public employees, and therefore, different than public-school teachers or police officers who work directly for the government or a political subdivision. Because states often set wages for partial-public employees, like home health care workers, and because unions often do not conduct collective bargaining for them, the Court determined that the home health care workers could not be required to pay union fees.
The Court found that, except in the exceptional circumstances, “no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”
For the full opinion click here.